I was first exposed to the wonders of Korean cinema quite like many were I presume with Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy. From that starting point firstly, that director became a firm favourite, and I also was treated to some real gems; including last year’s personal top ten entry Train to Busan. So we come to this somewhat under-hyped action thriller. Sook-hee has been trained from a young girl to become a deadly, highly skilled assassin. However upon the death of her mentor, she vows revenge which ultimately lands her in the custody of a government organisation that would like to put her kills to work.
This starts brilliantly with a no-holds-barred visceral action sequence filmed mostly in first person that well, has to be seen to be believed. This immediately hooked me, and once again it seems I was in for a top level Korean movie that I’d be recommending to anyone willing to listen. There’s clear echoes of French classic La Femme Nikita here, as well as Lady Vengeance. Also the direction, with rapid-fire editing and impossible camera work certainly makes this an experience. It’s sad to report then, that this is all held together with a rather generic and muddled plot with a myriad of flashbacks that only help to confuse matters. Performances are largely decent, especially from Kim Ok-bin as Sook-hee and there’s some fun characters and interesting twists. It also doesn’t take any prisoners and is at times very bloody and violent. I also found myself caring for the central protagonist’s plight and affected by the shitty things that happen to her … but with a villain who’s motives seem simply ‘because I’m evil’ this ended up not being the full package.
See it for it’s action and impeccable style. Not so much for it’s plot.
There’s certainly been a number of quality movies coming out of Korea in recent years … from the acclaimed films of Park-chan Wook (‘Old Boy’, ‘Sympathy for Mr Vengeance’) to quality horror like ‘I Saw The Devil’. So I thought after enjoying such movies, I’d better seek out some more Korean cinema. So we come to this much talked about take on the 28 Days Later formula of a virus outbreak and a hoard of ‘infected’. This time during a routine train journey.
We’re introduced to a businessman (Yoo Gong) going through a messy divorce and trying to retain some sort of relationship with his daughter. However on a train journey to take her back to her mother, said business man and a group of interesting characters soon discover that a virus has broken out and is spreading like wildfire. This is classic stuff, not dissimilar to a disaster movie where the viewer is introduced to a range of personalities each with their own agendas and back stories. However with the threat of a growing number of infected on the train and not knowing if the destination is safe, a battle for survival quickly ensures with tension cranked up to 11. I felt this brought back genuine thrills and intensity to horror that seems to have been missing for a while. It favours heart-in-mouth moments (whenever a window shatters) over gore and has impressive CGI and slick production values throughout.
The setting was claustrophobic and made for some genuinely chilling moments and the range of different characters (all well acted, particularly the young girl) made me care for not just the principle leads but almost everyone (bar a particularly selfish guy who you’ll be booing towards the end). It’s the sort of movie that keeps you guessing about who will survive and how things will turn out and for me, made for probably the best movie of the year so far.